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October 3, 2006

Automated phone notification system chosen
When school is closed because of a snow storm, the Hamilton School District will have one additional tool to notify parents about the decision.

The School Board voted to purchase the technology and services that will make automated calls to nearly 4,500 families and employees within 30 minutes of the decision to close school. As many as three calls will be made to each family including home, work and cell phone numbers. A print-out, available five minutes after all calls, are completed will indicate if messages were left with a person or on an answering machine.

The School Board accepted administrators’ recommendations to purchase the School Messenger software and services at a total annual cost of $3,025 and an additional $1,200 for the one-time set-up fee. The package will allow the district to use the service for five events each year if needed.

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., said that when school closes early in an emergency, staff members – especially at the elementary level – are concerned about children who might go home to an empty home. Local broadcast media have not always accurately reported information, causing confusion for parents and jammed phone lines at the schools.

She said advances in technology allow the district to quickly make important calls to parents in emergency situations. The technology will work with the district student database software program.

Cooke said the district will continue to use news media, cable television, the district’s Web site and other means to announce school closings.

The district currently contracts with School Messenger for parental notification when school lunch accounts are low and high school attendance matters.

School Board members endorsed the idea. Michael Hyland said the cost was worth it because it addressed student safety.

Jim Long noted that its cost was about $1 per student for the first year and about 75 cents per student in future years.

Lynn Kristensen, who worked on Marcy’s phone tree, said that more than 200 hours was devoted to the manual system at that school. She noted that the automated system will address some concerns among some parents who did not want to provide confidential and work phone numbers to other parents.

Cooke said the district will inform parents and staff about the new service and send out a test message within a few weeks.

Alcohol and drug prevention addressed
The status of the district’s Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) program was presented in a report that highlighted 2005-06 school year activities and a preview of plans for the current year. Activities included:

  • Initial AODA screening and referral services through guidance counselors, staff and administrators;
  • Referral services to the community for parents who seeking assistance for their children;
  • Grant-writing to secure funds for programming and services; and
  • School services including classroom guidance in health classes, grief support, follow-up contacts, peer mediation, resiliency training, refusal skills and asset building.

In addition, the Get Connected Program involved other community groups to provide parent sessions, school newsletter columns, networking with other districts and an AODA survey for students in grades 7, 9 and 11.

More Get Connected activities are planned in 2006-07. Additional parent presentations, offering of child care, more marketing efforts and national speakers are on the docket.

Kristensen, who serves on the Get Connected board, commended AODA specialist Kristin Hasbrook for being a “driving force” behind the efforts of the program.

“I do think (Get Connected) has made a difference,” Kristensen said.

Board election calendar presented
School Board President Gabe Kolesari presented the 2006-07 election schedule. Among the dates are:

  • Jan. 2 – deadline for candidacy declaration and nominations papers;
  • Feb. 20 – primary election if needed;
  • April 3 – spring election; and
  • April 23 – taking of office.

The terms of Sussex representative Gabe Kolesari and at-large member Gerald Schmitz are up for election this year. Both School Board members said they plan to run for re-election.

Curriculum alignment, articulation, transitions explained
Curriculum alignment, articulation and transition activities are key to ensuring that curriculum and instruction are sequenced across grades so that learning progresses as students move across grades and levels. Instructional Services Supervisor Dee Bauman, Ph.D., reported on the district’s curriculum process.

The district’s curriculum is aligned with the Wisconsin Academic Standards in each content area. Frameworks for reading, mathematics and science align with the standards and specify what is tested in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE). The frameworks have becomes important in helping the district ensure that its curriculum aligns with the WKCE.

Curriculum articulation and transition activities included the development of common assessments and teacher collaboration time. While common assessments at the secondary already were in place, elementary school staff members recently developed new reading and mathematics benchmarks.

Bauman reported that expansion of access and enrollment in enriched, honors and Advanced Placement courses is an important goal. Staff members at elementary and secondary levels have taken a closer look at the skills students need to be successful in those courses. The curriculum will be infused with those skills so that more students are prepared to be successful in those courses.

Personnel issues decided at regular meeting
In personnel business, the School Board:

  • appointed Andrea Diedrick as the part-time Hamilton Fine Arts Center and district cleaner; and
  • Kristina Scott as a Woodside clerical paraprofessional.